Kurdish HDP party leader to visit Russia, Turkish PM displeased
Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), poses during an interview with AFP in Brussels on August 6, 2015. (AFP/John Thys)
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Turkey’s premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, has sharply criticized the main Kurdish opposition party leader for a visit to Russia amid rising tensions between Moscow and Ankara over the recent downing of a Russian warplane.
Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.
Referring to the high profile trip by the first Turkish figure since the fighter jet downing on November 24, Davutoglu said at a Tuesday meeting in the parliament, “Why didn't they (the HDP) go two months ago? Why are they going at such a time?"
"Why are they going at such a time to a country with which we are having a crisis because of their violation of this nation's airspace?"
Last month, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer aircraft near Turkey's border with Syria, claiming the fighter jet had violated the Turkish airspace. One of the pilots that had parachuted out of the aircraft was killed by militants while the other was rescued.
Moscow, however, has dismissed Ankara’s claims, stressing that the plane was brought down in Syria's airspace, where Russia has been conducting operations since September 30 upon a request by the Damascus government.
The Turkish prime minister accused the HDP of seeking to cooperate with whoever Ankatra has problem with “instead of acting together with this nation.”
Ankara is fearful that Moscow and Kurdish factions will tighten their ties.
The HDP has been accused of backing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s.
Following the November 24 incident, Moscow imposed a number of punitive measures against Ankara, including import restriction on Turkish foods, a ban on tourist travel to Turkey, an embargo on hiring Turkish citizens in Russia and a ban on Turkish organizations' activities in Russia.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov has also said that the Kremlin expects Turkey to apologize, pay compensation and provide guarantees that such incidents will not happen again.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material